If you’re flying to Shannon International Airport, this region will make for a great start (or finish) to your Ireland holiday. The airport is located just 20 minutes from both Limerick City and Ennis - Clare’s main town.
In North County Clare, a short drive from Ennis, you’ll find the Burren region - a strange, lunar-like landscape carved from limestone rock millions of years ago. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty, unique flora and fauna, ancient monuments and quaint villages.
It’s here you will find many of Clare’s best attractions. A trip to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience in Liscannor is a ‘must’. The Cliffs are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction, standing majestically over the Atlantic Ocean, and stretching for 8km. The award winning eco-friendly visitor centre here brings the story of the cliffs to life, while O’Brien’s Tower offers panoramic views of the area.
In nearby Doolin village, see the Burren from a different perspective with a guided tour of Doolin Cave! Home to the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere, this showcave is one of the best kept secrets on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way!
Another showcave, the Aillwee Cave and Birds Of Prey Centre, is also located in the Burren. Aillwee, found just outside Ballyvaghan village, offers two great attractions in one. After you’ve discovered the caves bridged chasms, real bear bones and thunderous waterfall, check out one of Aillwee’s flying displays. See eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, and vultures in dramatic free flight.
In the heart of the Burren - Kilfenora - lies the Burren Centre and Kilfenora Ceilí Band Parlour. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Burren’, the centre traces the story of the formation of the region from 320 million years ago. Here, visitors will gain a fascinating insight into the incredible local history, geology, flora and fauna.
Outside of the Burren, Clare also boasts the renowned Bunratty Castle & Folk Park - located a 25 minute drive from Ennis or a 15 minute drive from Limerick. A fantastic day out for the whole family, Bunratty comprises a 26 acre living reconstruction of 19th century Irish life, and a 15th century castle. At the folk park, you can wander into 30 houses and cottages; walk down the village street complete with pub and schoolhouse; and see traditional crafts at the forge, the mills, the pottery, and the farms. Built in 1425, the castle contains 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art.
In Ennis, Clare’s main town which has a strong traditional musical heritage, the Clare Museum on Arthur's Row will help you uncover the history of County Clare over a period of 6,000 years. Featuring authentic artefacts, colourful text panels and audio-visual presentations, the museum includes a large collection of objects on loan from the National Museum of Ireland. What’s more, entry is free!
For those who wish to travel directly from West Clare to County Kerry, Shannon Ferries offers a fantastic service between Killimer near Kilrush, and Tarbert in Kerry. With just a short 20 minute crossing, cars and passengers can traverse the Shannon Estuary, saving a huge 137km of driving and taking in some fascinating sights along the way!
Just a 20 minute journey from Tarbert, or 50 minutes from Limerick City, heading towards the Kerry border, the Heritage Town of Foynes awaits. Amenities include a forest park, walking trails, Estuary viewpoints, the prize winning Boyce Gardens, award-winning Knockpatrick Gardens, and Combat Zone Paintballing Adventure.
Foynes is also home to the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum - where Irish Coffee was invented! Along with sampling the traditional tipple, you will discover the role played by Foynes in international aviation in the 1940s, and get the opportunity to board the world’s only life size replica of the Boeing 314 Flying Boat.
Right in the centre of the city, on Kings Island, is King John’s Castle - a medieval fortress with a fascinating history. After undergoing a multi-million euro redevelopment, this 13th century castle now features a new visitor centre with state of the art interpretive activities and exhibitions, 21st century touch-screen technology and 3D models to help visitors truly experience tales of siege and warfare.
Well worth a visit is Lough Gur in Co. Limerick (21km from Limerick City) - a prehistoric authentic site where the earliest settlers once worshiped and lived. You'll discover Ireland’s largest and oldest stone circle here and a local tour guide will invite you to explore this part of ancient Ireland. The visit concludes with a lake front excursion and an ending in the newly restored Lough Gur Heritage Centre which offers an engaging overview of Lough Gur’s global importance.
Also a 50 minute drive from the city, this time taking the R512 road towards the Cork border, you’ll find another heritage town - Kilmallock Heritage Town. Kilmallock has scarcely altered since medieval times - it still features medieval streets and a substantial stretch of the original town walls. Take a guided tour of the town, visit the nearby Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trail Park, enjoy the great nightlife and check out the Museum and Information Centre.
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